Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to talk about the team's disastrous 2012 season and the decision to fire Bobby Valentine.
"If this is broken, as indeed it is, we're determined to make it right and get back to the success that we've had in our first decade," Lucchino said.
Lucchino described the Thursday morning meeting where Valentine was given the news that he would not be returning for a second season. Lucchino clarified that it was not a breakfast meeting, as had been previously reported, but a mid-morning meeting at Lucchino's house.
"It started with a statement from Ben about the decision that had just been made," Lucchino said. "And then Bobby took it with great grace and professionalism, I must say. I've had the misfortune of being involved in these kinds of decisions from time to time over my 30 years of baseball, and he was exceptional in his grace and constructive comments. … As to whether he anticipated what was going to happen, you'd have to speak to him. We didn't ask him that question. But he certainly, as I said a minute ago, accepted the decision with grace and recognition."
While there were numerous reports of clubhouse problems during the season, Lucchino said the main reason for this decision is the team's lack of success.
"I find it awkward and probably a little inappropriate to go into 'Who shot John?' and what went right and what went wrong," Lucchino said. "I think what's easier to discuss is the record. If we were 93-69 instead of 69-93, we wouldn't be having this conversation. We're in a results-oriented business, and the results did not occur. We have high levels of expectations here in Boston, and I think rightfully so, and we did not perform. And Bobby understood it in those terms. He basically did [say], 'My job is to put together a winning team, to deal with the problems that emerge during the course of a tumultuous season and ensure that the team wins as it's expected to do.' And that didn't happen. So he recognized that the bottom line was indeed the bottom line."
There has been widespread speculation that the front office hurt Valentine's ability to run the team by failing to back him when players complained. Luchino insisted Valentine was able to be himself and had the support of his bosses.
"I think he was Bobby V. I think he wanted to be a little careful at the beginning because he stepped into such a difficult situation following the historic collapse last September. That may have urged him to be a little more careful because the situation was so volatile," Lucchino said. "But by and large I believe he felt that he had our support from the beginning. And throughout, we made it clear, publicly and privately, that when a situation was called into question that we were going to deal with the manager issue at the conclusion of the season and not until the conclusion of the season.
"From my point of view, he had my support. Certainly, I was an early advocate for him last offseason. And as he leaves the manager's office today I remain a supporter, someone who sees terrific things in Bobby Valentine, both personally and professionally."
One of the reported instances of front office interference came when Valentine allegedly was admonished for berating a player during spring training.
"No, he was not admonished," Lucchino said, adding: "Some [players] may have thought it was an unusual way to deal with it. But that whole issue [during an early season game] with Will Middlebrooks, I think Bobby handled just fine."
Looking at this year's managerial search as compared to last year's, Lucchino said the key differences are that the team is opening the search earlier and rookie general manager Ben Cherington now has the experience of having gone through the process once already. He also indicated that the shakeup around the team will continue.
"We do think that there are some things that need to be done besides this. This is not the only change that's going to made this offseason," Lucchino said. "There are myriad changes that will be made. We've begun with the megatrade with the Dodgers, with the addition of Jason Varitek, with the supplement to our evaluation process with Eddie Bane, now with the managerial change, there'll be some coaching changes. There will be a host of changes. And there will be some new personnel.
"We believe we have a core of good players, a core of really positive, exciting, hard-nosed players that our fans can embrace. I'm talking about Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks, and I could go on and on. There's a core of good players there. But we've got to supplement them, we've got to use free agency, we've got to trade, we've got to do what we can to add to this team to make it stronger and let's hope make it healthier."
Following are more highlights from the interview.
On if the players have a say in who will be hired: "We will talk to our players, of course, the more input we get from players on things, the better. But they do not have a vote in this process. This is not a referendum of players who will tell us who they next manager should be. That, I think, is misguided."
On reports that last offseason the players were told the team would not hire a confrontational manager like Bobby Valentine: "I have no personal knowledge of that. I've heard the same story, that Theo Epstein -- I believe it was, at least that's the story that I've heard -- made that comment while he was here as general manager. But of course the decision was made later than that, after Theo was gone. So, I don't know if he indeed did say something like that or not. You'd probably have to ask him."
On if the team should have reconsidered retaining Terry Francona last year: "I don't want to open old issues except to say Terry was not an option. He told us he was not prepared to manage again in 2012, and we took him at his word. So, no, that alternative was never considered or explored."
On accountability for the struggles this season: "The lack of success that we endured during this terrible 2012 season is a responsibility that's shared by a lot of us, including yours truly, including Ben Cherington and our baseball operations department, including John Henry and Tom Werner representing our ownership. There were enough misjudgments and problems that developed that there's plenty of accountability to pass around."
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